I guess Milo Manara really likes this pose

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Much ado is being of Milo Manara’s artwork for the new Spider-Woman:

milo spider woman

 

Bootylicious isn’t she? Almost like she’s preparing for some doggy-style lovin’. I guess invariably strapless, body-clinging spandex isn’t illogical enough for female superheroes. We’re getting down to full on nudity with just a layer of body-paint separating our crimefighters from the bad guys.

I didn’t know anything about Milo Manara before this, and it turns out he’s an erotic illustrator of some note, in addition to being among the original artists to work on Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja. After an image search, I can se why his work is so popular–it’s really beautiful and sensual. But when I stumbled upon this image, I was a little unsettled:

milo penthouse

 

It looks like he did the art for the cover of the November 1996 issue of Penthouse Comix. Also quite bootylicious, also like she’s ready for some doggy-style lovin’.

Before I go on, I want to make clear that I’m hardly a prude. I’m aware that there are plenty of artists who have done work in both the erotic world and in children’s books.  And when I was struck by the similarity of the pose to the Spider-Woman art, I couldn’t resist sharing. If I do have a problem it’s that Spider-Woman is intended to be read by people of all ages–who wants to be stuck explaining the doggy position to a nine year-old? Perhaps perched on that big building, she’s enjoying a nice breeze around her privates.

I’m probably more amused by the irony than anything. This whole thing reminds me of a joke on the Simpsons, where a character clearly based on Maurice Sendak explains that he got into writing and illustrating children’s books after Playboy kept rejecting his comics for being too dirty.

Also, I’d love to see Manara’s version of the Kama Sutra, if it exists.

Referenced by The Comics Journal and Splice Today.

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Helen Keller, angry letter-writer

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helen keller

This is the rough draft of a letter that Helen Keller wrote to the Student body of Germany when the Nazis order the burning of her book, How I Became a Socialist. (With a title like that, I would imagine there’s some present day turds who would also want to burn it.) The letter is stored in the Helen Keller Archival collection at the American Foundation for the Blind.

What’s so fascinating about this is that, probably because of the film, the Miracle Worker, we think of Keller as a kind of passive entity. The reality is that she was a ball-busting bad-ass.

If the letter is difficult to read, here’s the transcription:

May 9, 1933


To the Student Body of Germany


History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them.
You can burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels, and will continue to quicken other minds. I gave all the royalties of my books to the soldiers blinded in the World War with no thought in my heart but love and compassion for the German people.
Do not imagine your barbarities to the Jews are unknown here. God sleepeth not, and He will visit His Judgment upon you. Better were it for you to have a mill-stone hung round your neck and sink into the sea than to be hated and despised of all men.


Helen Keller

American Foundation for the Blind: Helen Keller’s Words…Still Powerful 80 Years Later http://www.afb.org/blog.aspx?BlogID=7&BlogEntryID=723

A failure of leadership

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unwanted sexual contact

 

Today on MSNBC’s Meet the Press, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was on to shill his new book, Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life. David Gregory1 began the interview by asking Rumsfeld about the military sexual assault problem, and the exchange went like this:

 

David Gregory: I want to ask you about a very disturbing subject within the military that you’ve worked over for so long, and that is sexual assaults in the military. Some of the reported cases when you were secretary and reported and estimates, a much larger number and the alarming rise between 2010 and 2012. And the issue at hand here is: What should the military do about it? Does it have to change the way these crimes are reported at the chain of command and go outside of that to a special prosecutor? What would you do?

Donald Rumsfeld: I don’t know that a special prosecutor is the answer, but there is an argument that can be made for handling them in a way different than they’re being handled because they’re serious. And I would suspect that an awful lot of them don’t even get reported. That’s probably true in the private sector, private citizens as well as in the military. But it’s a terrible thing. There has to be zero tolerance. And it appears that something different is going to have to be done, and I wish I knew what the answer was. I don’t. People simply have to not tolerate it.

David Gregory: What about the culture in the military? Is that a major part of contributing to it?

Donald Rumsfeld: People talk about that, and about athletic teams and male environments. I don’t know the answer to that. There’s certainly nothing about the military that would contribute to it in terms of the purpose of the armed forces. But I don’t know the answer and I think they better really land all over people that are engaged in any kind of abuse of that nature.

 

I was impressed by Rumsfeld’s candor, but for all the wrong reasons, and one right reason. The one right reason I was impressed is because when someone doesn’t know something, I would much rather hear them say, “I don’t know,” rather than try to bullshit their way out of it. Overall, that was his answer to questions about the ongoing problem of sexual assault in the military: I don’t know.

However, that’s also where it starts to get impressive for the wrong reasons. Rumsfeld is a former Naval Officer, Congressman, NATO Ambassador, and Secretary of Defense. If he doesn’t know, then who the fuck does know? If, for all of his accomplishments and credentials, he cannot figure out a solution to the problem of military sexual assault, then he needs to shut up and go home. Stop writing books about leadership, because he doesn’t know how to lead. If he cannot understand the persistent threat plaguing a significant proportion of the military population, he cannot call himself an expert on leadership when he so blatantly failed the very people he was supposed to lead. This was not a new problem when Rumsfeld assumed office in 2001 (Tailhook2 and Aberdeen3 had already happened), and it’s not a new problem now.

In the last two weeks, three people who were supposed to lead the fight against sexual assault in the military4, 5, 6 have all been arrested for varying degrees of sexual misconduct. An Air Force pilot who was convicted in a jury courts-marshal7 of sexual misconduct had his conviction overturned by a superior officer and continues to serve at full rank and pay. And the stories just go on and on, all of them just as alternately heartbreaking and angering. By just looking at the numbers, the Pentagon’s own survey estimates that there are 70 assaults8 a day. This is, at best, an exhibition of incompetent leadership, and at worst, and abdication of leadership.

In the research I have been doing, I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem of sexual violence has gone on for so long because it was never seen as a problem until the civilian world told them it was. In the military view, if someone was assaulted, it was their fault for being weak; and if they reported it, it was their fault for being a whiner. And weak whiners have to be disposed of in order to maintain a strong, well-structured military9.

I know I’m oversimplifying to an absurd degree, but until this problem is solved, I will continue to return to this topic. There is simply no excuse for a failure of this magnitude, our service members deserve better. To give an idea of just how bad the problem is I’ll end with this: I was reading an article of female Syrian refugees10 recently. In the camps, there’s no light at night, so they fear for their personal safety if they have to use the bathrooms. Back in 2007, I read11 the exact same thing about our female troops in Iraq.

 

military assault

 

  1. MSNBC: Meet the Press http://www.nbcnews.com/id/3032608/vp/51932144#51932144
  2. New York Times: Revisiting the Military’s Tailhook Scandal http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/booming/revisiting-the-militarys-tailhook-scandal-video.html?_r=0
  3. Re: Aberdeen http://www.amazon.com/GAMe-Unraveling-Military-Sex-Scandal/dp/1592989969/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369004238&sr=1-1&keywords=the+game+aberdeen
  4. The Daily Beast: Air Force General Blames Increase in Military Rape on Hookup Culture http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/08/air-force-general-blames-increase-in-military-rape-on-hookup-culture.html
  5. USA Today: Suspect in Fort Hood prostitution ring identified http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/15/mcqueen-suspect-fort-hood-prostitution-ring/2163045/
  6. USA Today: Fort Campbell sexual harassment manager arrested http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/16/fort-campbell-sexual-harassment-manager-arrested/2182437/
  7. CNN Security Clearance: General defends court martial reversal in sex assault case http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/11/general-defends-court-martial-reversal-in-sex-assault-case/
  8. Raw Story: Pentagon survey: More than 70 military sexual assaults occur per day http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/05/07/pentagon-survey-more-than-70-military-sexual-assaults-occur-per-day/
  9. My San Antonio: In the military, sex assault victims labeled mentally ill and drummed out http://www.mysanantonio.com/default/article/In-the-military-sex-assault-victims-labeled-as-4526251.php
  10. RH Reality Check: Stoking Fire: Addressing the Specific Needs of Female Refugees http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/05/17/stoking-fire-addressing-the-specific-needs-of-female-syrian-refugees/
  11. Salon: The private war of women soldiers http://www.salon.com/2007/03/07/women_in_military/

Army Captain Blows Whistle on Sexual Misconduct

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In the above video, CPT Marcelo A. Lucero blows the whistle on a series of failures to protect his fellow soldiers from sexual assault and harassment. On the original YouTube page he explains:

The following is a video on the falsification of Army training documents, the endangering of Soldiers’ lives, concealment of a sexual assault, and the perpetuation of an atmosphere a sexual harassment at the 841st Engineer Battalion in Miami, Florida.

To date no one has been held responsible for any of these actions.

I made this video as a record of my last official act as a commissioned officer in the United States Army.

The 841st EN BN has fostered a command climate ripe in the demoralizing atmosphere of sexual harassment and corruption.

Not only have the officers of the 841st EN BN fallen disgracefully short of meeting their moral, ethical and legal obligations to the Soldiers assigned to the unit, but our higher commands – the 926th EN BDE and the 412th Theater Engineer Command, are equally responsible for their lack of oversight and their tacit complicity following my initial reporting of these issues over 1 ½ year ago.

This is my last avenue for addressing these issues, as I have utilized my chain-of-command, the office of the inspector-general, and even my former-congressional representative, the Honorable Mr. Mario Diaz-Balart and my current representative, the Honorable Ms. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

I personally cannot understand why no one has been held accountable for falsifying training documents, endangering the lives of Soldiers, concealing a sexual assault, and perpetuating an atmosphere a sexual harassment, given the amount of evidence I and others have provided or offered to provide.

Very respectfully,

CPT Marcelo A. Lucero
United States Army

Are women’s votes the next target in the war on women?

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In the ongoing quest for women’s equal rights protections, I’ve come to accept that there are certain topics, particularly abortion, that are always going to be controversial. But occasionally, I’m blindsided by the resurrection of debating topics that I thought had been settled by my mother’s generation—like birth control. Or a topic that I thought had been settled by grandmother’s generation—like women’s suffrage.

You read that right. Women’s suffrage, a woman’s right to vote—a thing wasn’t constitutionally protected until my grandmother was already 9 years old, and old enough to sneak her father’s cigarettes (she had an early gift for mayhem). The elimination of the Nineteenth Amendment, which bans discrimination on voting based on sex, is, in a far off corner of the Right Wing, up for discussion.

Last Friday, on a National Review blog, author Michael Walsh1 wrote, in a response to fellow blogger, Mario Loyola: “Nevertheless, you’re on to something I’ve been advocating for years now. And that is the repeal of all four of the so-called “Progressive Era” amendments, including the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th, which were passed between 1911 and 1920.

The income-tax amendment was a self-evident attack on capitalism and led to the explosive growth of the federal government we currently enjoy today. (Without it, there’d be no need for a Balanced Budget Amendment.) Direct elections of senators has given us, among other wonders, the elevation of John F. Kerry to, now, secretary of state. Prohibition was directly responsible for the rise of organized crime and its unholy alliance with the big-city Democratic machines. And women’s suffrage . . . well, let’s just observe that without it Barack Obama could never have become president. Time for the ladies to take one for the team.

Who’s with me?”

To be fair to Loyola, his original post2 was in regard to the possibility of repealing the Sixteenth Amendment (the one that allows the Federal government to collect income taxes), and used the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition) as the precedent that could be used to repeal the Sixteenth. (It’s worth mentioning that it took creating and ratifying the Twenty-First Amendment to repeal the Eighteenth, so it’s only logical that any future attempts at repealing any other amendments would likely follow that same path.) But anyway, in Loyola’s original post, it looks like he got his amendments mixed up, and was calling for an end to women’s suffrage when he really wants to explore the idea of repealing the Sixteenth Amendment instead of pursuing a Balanced Budget Amendment—and has already issued a correction to the post.

And Walsh decided to have some fun with that at his expense. However, if he’s attempting to make funny about women’s suffrage, he misses the mark, if only because he seems genuinely serious about actually repealing the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments. While I understand the tax argument behind repealing the Sixteenth, I find his choice in attacking the Seventeenth rather odd—the Amendment calls for the direct election of Senators by popular vote, as opposed to the old way of being elected by state legislatures. The reason I find it odd is because if the Seventeenth had never been passed, there’s still no guarantee that John Kerry would never have been a Senator. I mean, the Senate has 100 people—no matter who picks them, you’re not going to love or hate all of them all of the time.

However, I don’t think a genuine discussion matters all that much to Walsh. His contempt for the “Progressive Era” amendments strikes me as a bit of a red herring: his real contempt appears to be for voters.  In his put-down of John Kerry, he seems to believe the people of Massachusetts were morons for electing and reelecting him. And as for Obama—he blames women for giving Obama a second term, when really, he should blame his own party for throwing a generation of women voters away.

In the 2012 election, it did appear that the Republican Party seemed to develop a kind of collective amnesia that the Nineteenth Amendment exists, and that women can vote. There appeared to be no shortage of male (and the occasional female) conservative candidates who would eagerly wax poetic about what women’s bodies are actually intended for (sperm receptacles, right?), justifying their lame attempts at turning women’s health and safety into political foosballs.

GOP female anatomy

I probably would have dismissed Walsh as just another Right Wing blogger in love with the sound of his own hyperbole if it wasn’t for the fact that I stumbled upon another notable righty with his toe in the anti-suffragette pond not that long ago: Sean Hannity. Ok, Hannity has never (to my knowledge) said that he wants to repeal women’s right to vote, or anyone else’s. But there is something a little eyebrow-raising about the company he keeps.

Last year, Hannity had Rev. Jesse Peterson and Daily Beast reporter Kirsten Powers on his show, and this happened:

To give full context of that conversation, what Powers is referring to is a talk that Peterson gave here (specifically the good stuff that starts at about 8:30):

For those of you who sat through Peterson’s entire chat, I commend you on your iron stomachs. And it also means that you noticed that in addition to being a woman-hating asshole, he’s a just a complete moron as well. In relation back to Hannity, I don’t know that he continues to have Peterson on either his TV or radio shows. But Peterson is still listed on Hannity’s site3 as a regular guest, and really, I can’t help wondering why. I know that many of these types of shows have regular guests that the hosts disagree with—Bill Maher has frequently had Ann Coulter on his shows, and Bill O’Reilly has regularly had an assortment of disagreeable sparring partners. But to give voice to someone who wants to repeal a group’s right to vote is just unthinkable to me. I’m glad to see I’m not alone, because the comments on Hannity’s site are mostly against having Hannity ever having Peterson back. (The link is down below in the footnotes.)

What really gets me about this is that I want to believe that Peterson is just an element of the lunatic fringe, and that Walsh is just kidding. But I also used to believe that the anti-birth control crowd was limited to a few religious nutbags, and that separation of church and state would be respected. The Republican Party is currently the party of religious fanatics. So if I’ve developed some paranoia, I think that I, as a woman, have earned it.

My own father defined himself as a Barry Goldwater Republican, and so I’m amazed at how the Party has evolved, particularly on women’s issues: Goldwater and his wife poured their own money into building the largest Planned Parenthood Clinic in Arizona, and now Arizona allows employers to fire employees for taking birth control. So just for that, I’m letting Sen. Goldwater have the final word:

goldwater

 

 

  1. National Review Online Michael Walsh: the 19th Amendment http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/340823/19th-amendment-michael-walsh
  2. National Review Online Mario Loyola: Re: Simplify the Balanced Budget Amendment http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/340811/re-simplify-balanced-budget-amendment-mario-loyola
  3. Hannity.com Guests: Rev. Jesse Peterson http://www.hannity.com/guest/peterson-rev-jesse/10802